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Burlington’s ghost highway

Burlington Retro knows you. It knows you had childhood nightmares about your family car driving off this dead-end ramp on I-93 just north of downtown Boston. And now, as an adult, you still question why it’s there.

Dead-end ramp on 93

That appendage was the beginning of the ill-fated Interstate 695, an inner beltway that was supposed to form a tight semi-circle around Boston, looping you through Cambridge, Brookline and taking you back to I-93 in the South End.

Proposed Route 695
Proposed Route 695

It never happened. The 1960s “highway revolts” killed a lot of projects like this one, prompting Gov. Francis W. Sargent to invest in public transportation instead.

Gov. Francis Sargent with inner belt protestors. (Cambridge Historical Society)

What does this have to do with Burlington? Here’s the interchange of Route 3 (heading top/bottom) and Route 128, in 1955. See the Route 3 appendage just south of the interchange?

Route 3 and Route 128 interchange Burlington MA 1955
That’s Route 3 running top/bottom and Route 128 sideways, 1955.

Route 3 was supposed to continue south through Winchester and join Route 2 in Arlington, which in turn was supposed to connect to — you guessed it — the new Interstate 695 inner beltway. But since that beltway was cancelled, there was no need for Route 3 to continue past Burlington. So Burlington’s ghost highway and Boston’s ghost ramp are cousins, connected by a relative who never made it into the world.

In 1967, Burlington considered connecting Route 3 to Adams Street, to usher Lexington-bound traffic past the Middlesex Turnpike in Burlington. The idea didn’t fly:

Route 3 to Adams Street idea Burlington MA

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